K2: Final Summit Push Has Begun!

Last night at K2 Base Camp, everyone went to bed on edge, trying to sleep, their packs ready by their sides. The good weather came a little early and should run from today to February 5. This might be the last summit chance before the February snows begin, perhaps as early as this weekend. Everyone will join this attempt. For several days, Base Camp will be an uncharacteristically lonely place.
The day-by-day plan:
Seven Summit Treks’ eight-member Sherpa team has already set off, says Chhang Dawa Sherpa, who will remain in Base Camp, coordinating the operation. The lead Sherpa group will check the equipment left in higher camps and repair any fixed ropes damaged or displaced since the previous push two weeks ago. They will also deposit oxygen bottles along the way.
Tomorrow, most SST climbers and their personal Sherpas will go to Camp 1 for the night, while the avant-garde Sherpa team progresses to Camp 2. Light snow and light winds should accompany them for the next two days.
On Wednesday, Camp 1 and a few Base Camp climbers will move up to Camp 2, while the Sherpas establish Camp 3 at 7,300m. Here, they will deposit oxygen bottles, check the ropes and return back to C2.
Thursday, February 4 is D-Day: Everyone climbs to Camp 3, rests for a few hours, and starts their final push, skipping Camp 4. Temperatures are expected to drop to -55ºC.  If the wind allows, they should reach the summit on the morning of February 5.
Dawa admits that the schedule is tight and that there is little time to waste: On the afternoon of February 6, the winds above 7,500m will increase to 60kph, along with 100kph gusts.

No hesitation: Magdalena Gorzowska is ready to go.

“Our plan is based on the weather reports, expert advice, and the team’s willingness,” said Dawa. “But this is a winter K2 expedition. This plan can change at any moment. To get down safety is the main concern.”
They will all have to return from the summit to Camp 2 on February 5, because the bad weather begins the following day and they will need time to return to Base Camp.
We still don’t know the detailed plans of the no-O2 climbers — Snorri and the Sadparas, Lunger and Mohr, possibly Magdalena Gorzkowska. Gorzkowska will climb with two personal Sherpas and photographer Oswaldo Rodrigo Pereira, following the same plan as SST’s: One camp per day beginning tomorrow, only a short rest in Camp 3, then all the way to the summit, skipping C4.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous,” says another climber, photographer Elia Saikaly. “Anyone attempting K2, especially in winter, should be nervous because one mistake up there will cost you your life.” Saikaly is there to document John Snorri and his team and will try to get up as high as possible, though likely not the summit, since he arrived in BC relatively recently.

Photographer Elia Saikaly. Photo: @SherpaPK


The expert’s insight, by Jacek Teler: 

It’s an excellent weather window, and as the week progresses, it gets even better.  February 4-5 should be a near-perfect copy of the halcyon January 15-16 summit days. In fact, this window may be even better, because it offers a longer period with no significant wind before it closes with a slam on February 6 and especially, on February 7, when winds get even stronger. Moreover, the previous summiters have broken trail and fixed ropes. There is also plenty of equipment already in Camps 1 and 2. 

The one problem stems from the climbers’ poor acclimatization. Except for Snorri’s team, their previous rotations have reached at most 6,500m. The 5,000m altitude of Base Camp is not enough for acclimatizing.

The idea that acclimatization to 6,500m is enough to reach the summit of K2 with bottled oxygen is risky, even in summer,” says Teler. Snorri and the Sadparas have made it to 6,800m without O2, which has prepared them better for altitude. On the other hand, it is uncertain whether they have recovered from their aborted summit attempt last week.   

In any case, we are about to witness how each of the climbers face what Teler calls Moby Dick, the mighty white winter monster.

Note:  As with the last summit push, in which the 10 Nepalis became the first to reach the summit of K2 in winter, ExplorersWeb will update the climbers’ progress as soon as we get it, 24 hours a day.